Funny, I Don’t Feel Any Older
By Karen Sands
As I lift my head from the sink to dry off the early morning cold splash of water, I am once again caught by the “un-made” face in the mirror. It is so easy to turn away and not notice… easy to see what I want to see, the perpetually thirty-something face peering back at me. This morning I do stop, go eye to eye with this vaguely familiar stranger– and notice the changes in facial lines, the dropping jaw line, and the eyes now like watery tide pools pulling me down into my inner world. The longer I look, the stronger the urge to turn away. I resist, knowing how much this reflection has to teach.
These lifelines suggesting so many mini-deaths…so many losses…father, mother, dear, dear girlfriends in their prime…youthful marriage and divorce, years of painful separation from my children, cherished dreams never to be realized. The familiarity of my long rejected resemblance to my mother, and her mother before her, engulfs me. My eyes fill for my maternal ancestors’ unexpressed souls while a bittersweet smile spreads on my reflected face for their gift of life to me. I am reminded that I too am a keeper of their painfully earned wisdom. The weight of this responsibility is palpable. At a cellular level, I feel a resonance with both the past and the future. An awareness floods — my image too, will someday reflect back to my daughter, and her daughters.
I lean my hands on the sink and its cold hard surface reminds me that I am of this world, this side of the mirror. My reflected gaze pulls me back into the mirror. I find myself resonating with the otherness of the image. I hear my voice pleading, “How do I embrace this changing image? How do I move forward with acceptance and grace?” From a place even deeper in my belly, comes an imploring request, “When will you return to me?” As if being heard by some entity in the mirror, I call out “If I am to accept and live these changes confronting me in the mirror, return to me. Give me the key to unraveling this mystery.” I am surprised and deeply moved by this unexpected monologue.
I call a dear friend to share the morning’s encounter. As I relate my story, she responds in agreement with all the yea’s and hmmhuh’s in all the right places. She even gets right before the bathroom mirror with me saying, “This morning I noticed that I can’t believe that who I see in the mirror looks older than I feel I am! It’s quite a discrepancy. And when I started to put on my make-up, I could hear the cosmetic industries’ motto of “Just apply the shadow on the two areas of your lids. Well, it just doesn’t work anymore! My lids have fallen. There are no two areas left!!” We laugh like comrades going through some secret rite of passage.
We thought we were savvy, prepared for life after 40. And yet, each day startles us with the subtle and not so subtle changes in our very physicality: the belly, the boobs, the butt…all sagging. Those brown spots reproducing right before our eyes. And where did all the stores of energy go? I used to stay up all night and be raring to go the next morning. Now if I pull an all-nighter, I’m out of it for days!
Returning to my story, and the mirror, I repeat my cry, “When will you return to me?” Instantly, my friend responds, “NEVER!! It’s over. You’ll never have her back!” I am taken aback. That is not what I want to hear! “Why do you say that?” I ask in disbelief. With total authority, mixed with a deep longing, she responds, “We’ll never have who we were in our 20’s or 30’s, or even our 40’s, back again. If I get involved with someone new he’ll never know me as I was…only old photos…” Her voice drifts off, her loss unmistakable through the telephone.
On the other hand, I am so relieved! It was not my youthful image I was beseeching to return to me! Quite the opposite. I was calling back an image that came to me in a mirror over a decade ago, as I entered my forties. As I was leaving for a wedding, I glanced once more in the antique gilded mirror. As I looked at my reflected image, I gasped and held my breath. My youthful joie de vive image had transformed before my eyes into an old, old, old woman shrouded in black. She was me but was not. She had more wrinkles than I have ever seen. Her dark eyes penetrated, stared through me. They told me that my time was coming. “Prepare yourself!” I almost heard her say. She was not frightening, although I was certainly startled. Then, as mysteriously as she appeared, she was gone. (Thank goodness, my husband had witnessed this exchange or I would have thought I was hallucinating or going mad!). I call her Ancient Future. I know now that she was the Crone, the harbinger of what was and is yet to come.
Her appearance was life changing, a calling. She ushered me along a new career path. I garnered a post graduate in adult development and aging and began my search for the meaning of the emergence of the Crone as we move into the new millennium. I have spent my forties and early fifties on a spiritual journey following her inward, mining new depths of my unconscious, claiming the golden nuggets of my Soul. In my work, I am blessed to witness to the unfolding of women’s lives as they move through the cycles and spirals along the continuum of life into death. But there is more….
Her appearance beckoned me into my coming old age. She gave me the courage to begin to lift my own veils of denial, to take stock of the quality of my life and how I wanted to live the years I have left. Perhaps the greatest gift of all, she connected me with the legacies of past generations of women and my place in creating a legacy for those to come. I am now propelled into a new orbit, a new cycle. This is my opportunity to accept the seasons of my life. Hallelujah!
©1988-2009 Karen Sands/Future Works Institute, Ltd. Future Works® is the registered trademark of Future Works Institute, Ltd. Karen Sands, MCC: Your Ultimate Guide to the Future, Master Coach, Professional Futurist, Career & Midlife Expert for People Ready to Change Their World & the Future, Speaker & Author. Sign up for your free monthly ezine, “Future Works® Gazette”. Learn more about tools for positively transforming yourself and the world, visit http://www.FutureWorksInstitute.com. Join Karen on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook.